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HealthBiz: DTC Ads Aim at Caregivers

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WASHINGTON, Apr 06, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Caregivers in the home can have a big influence over patient therapy and compliance with treatment regimens -- and they could be the newest target in direct-to-consumer healthcare advertising.

NOP World Health coupled with Parade Magazine on a survey of caregivers -- often spouses but also friends and other family members -- and their patients. They found caregivers often talk to patients about new treatments or medications they see advertised, and they often are even more knowledgeable about therapies and the specific disease than the patient, and they influence how well patients comply with prescribed treatments.

Alan Steinberg, a research psychologist for NOP, said the study "provides a new perspective on healthcare management as well as new strategies for DTC advertising."

"The findings clearly point to an opportunity to improve patient compliance by leveraging the caregiver to help improve adherence to medical treatment," he told UPI's HealthBiz. "It certainly has implications from an industry point of view. The cost of non-compliance is huge, not only in terms of patient health and well-being, but also financially."

Steinberg said there are different DTC approaches that could work. One is to target the caregiver directly with ads for brand-name products. The survey found when a caregiver shows an ad to a patient, that patient is twice as likely to ask his or her physician about the product than if the patient had seen the ad independently.

A second approach is to target caregivers for patient education -- encouraging them to learn more and to be a patient coach, making sure they know their participation and care does make a positive difference. Educating physicians to talk to patients about the value of having a caregiver also would be helpful.

Steinberg said he does not know of any specific ad campaigns underway that target these health partners, although some advertising does show caregivers, such as parents of children, as part of the overall message.

NOP is part of a larger corporate entity, NOP World, owned by United Business Media, a survey research company.


The government's crackdown on online pharmacies that sell pain medication, as well as its oversight of physician prescribing patterns, have fueled growing concerns that patients who really need powerful pain drugs cannot get them.

In May, the Federation of State Medical Boards will be considering new recommendations on pain management, following meetings among pain management experts, board representatives and state and federal government officials. Revisions to the federation's "Model Guidelines for the Use of Controlled Substances for the Treatment of Pain" are meant to address the growing reluctance of physicians to prescribe pain medication, resulting in undertreatment that is becoming a public health priority.

The new guidelines would encourage states to consider the undertreatment of pain as a violation equal to overtreatment, as well as push the government to develop a system that prevents abuse of painkillers and drug trafficking while still making pain medications sufficiently available for legitimate medical use.

The new guidelines also call for a revision of the definitions of addiction, chronic pain and physical dependence to reflect the latest views of science and the medical community.

Dr. James Thompson, president of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, recently testified before the House Committee on Government Reform about H.R. 3880, a bill that would tighten restrictions on physicians who prescribe medication over the Internet.

The bill would require patients to complete a face-to-face visit with a physician before a prescription could be written -- thus eliminating the growing practice of patients simply filling out forms on the Internet that are reviewed by a doctor before the drug is prescribed.

Thompson testified the bill "strikes a reasonable balance in requiring and defining an appropriate physician-patient relationship for the narrow purpose of regulating Internet pharmacies, while recognizing the exclusive role of state medical boards in defining that relationship under other circumstances."


CVS Corp.'s purchase of 1,260 Eckerd drug stores from the J.C. Penney Co. will make it the nation's largest retail pharmacy, with more than 5,000 stores in 36 States.

The $2.15 billion cash deal announced Monday also creates a company with a $2 billion business encompassing pharmacy benefit management and medications by mail and $33 billion in total revenues.

CVS said it expects to be filling 13 percent of all U.S. prescriptions. Most of the stores purchased are in Florida and Texas.


Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said in a statement he is "gratified" by a court ruling upholding the new privacy regulations that are part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

The case, Citizens for Health vs. Thompson, was dismissed by the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

"The court's decision supports our authority to protect the privacy of patient health information in a way that does not impede their access to quality health care," Thompson said.

The case was filed by consumer and healthcare provider groups and alleged HHS, in implementing HIPAA regulations, granted too much blanket permission for health entities to use consumer medical information without consent. It claimed the privacy regulations deprived individuals of their ability to exercise their privacy rights and that HHS did not adopt adequate security measures to ensure the information was protected.

The plaintiffs also alleged HHS violated private conversation protections under the First Amendment by authorizing the disclosure of information that is the subject of such talks -- which likely coulds have a chilling effect on consultations between patients and doctors.



Copyright 2004 by United Press International.


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